If there’s one thing I adore more than Italy, it’s Italian cuisine. I initially experienced authentic Italian fare when on holiday in Lake Garda; indulging every evening at eateries each with their own individual character and traditions. Italy is renowned for it’s passion for hearty food and focus on family life, which was clearly arrayed to me by the love and care ‘nonna’ had lavished upon my dinner each night – personified as a generous glug of local extra virgin olive oil.
I dote on limoncello liqueur. I make, roll and cut my own pasta. I prefer my pizza bases crisp and crunchy with bountiful portions of mozzarella (no Dominoes for me thank you very much)…
Really, I should have been born Italian.
This recipe is a Jamie Oliver delight. ‘Risotto ai finocchi con ricotta e peperoncino’. Bit of a mouthful, but so worth it. The fennel and ricotta tie together in perfect harmony and the fire in the chilli creates a gorgeous juxtaposition to the creamy sweetness of the rice. If your mouth isn’t watering right now I would only ask you why. Make this. It will not disappoint.
FENNEL RISOTTO WITH RICOTTA AND CHILLI (serves 4)
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 bulbs fennel, finely sliced, herby tops preserved
- 4 or 5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 320 g risotto rice
- 2 wineglasses of dry white vermouth (dry Martini or Noilly Prat) or dry white wine
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Dried chilli flakes
- Crumbly ricotta
1) Put your fennel seeds into a pestle and mortar and bash up to a powder. Get a wide, hot saucepan, add a couple of splashes of olive oil and fry the garlic, celery & onions until softened, then add the bashed fennel seeds and sliced fennel. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and turn down to a medium-low heat. Place a lid on the pan and cook nice and slowly for around 20 minutes, until the fennel’s soft and sweet.
2) Add the risotto rice to the sautéed fennel mixture and lightly fry until slightly translucent. Now, add the wine and keep stirring.
3) Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Right at the end when your rice is cooked, add the juice of the lemon.
4) Divide between your plates, sprinkle over your fennel tops and ricotta, and dust with the ground chill flakes.